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The harsh reality of an Australian summer

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back three-fold

One of my favourite pieces of writing is Dorothea Mackellar’s “My Country”. I grew up near the Gunnedah district where she spent time as a young woman, an area which inspired what has become one of Australia’s most quoted and best-loved poems. Every time I read her words I feel grounded and real because I love so many of the things she loved about Australia.

But on a day like today, during a week like this week, those words send fear and dread through me as temperatures soar into the high 40s and wind gusts fan fire flames in some of the hottest parts of Australia. Her poem rolls around my mind as I sit glued to social media tracking tragic fires, particularly in the Wimmera and Grampians – a place that was my home for many years before fires sealed our family’s decision to leave the sunburnt country, a  land of sweeping plains.

I cannot find the words to describe how it feels to be so close to fire. On Black Saturday – February 7, 2009 – I was more frightened than I’d ever been when a fire started one kilometre from our house. The wind was in our favour but not for many others whose homes on the outskirts of Horsham were destroyed along with Horsham Golf Club.

Now living a long way away, in a much milder temperature zone, I feel powerless to provide  comfort to people I know who are battling the fires and trying to save lives and property. With one person already dead in the Grampians, and a countless number of wildlife and stock, today is Australia at its harshest.

Yet still… I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains.

And as Dorothea says in her final lines “All you who have not loved her, You will not understand…”

Take care and stay safe.

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